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Reminiscences about a Past;Age a United India

Updated on December 23, 2017

Before 1947

1947 is a watershed in the history of the sub-continent. It led to the birth of a new nation Pakistan. The state of Pakistan was carved along religious lines yet the fact is that more Muslims were left behind in India than those in the newly formed state. One wonders how this division took place as right up to 1946, the state of Pakistan did not look a reality. The British, however, past masters in the policy of divide and rule wanted to leave India a moth-eaten state and encouraged the Muslim league to ask for Pakistan.

The British were loathe to go. India was the brightest jewel in the crown of the British empire but the army was no longer loyal and that led the British to leave India. The fact is the army which had been the source of British power in India could not be trusted as the great wartime leader Subhas Bose had changed the dynamics of the Indian army with the creation of the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army. A mutiny in 1946 that left 200 British dead and mass scale defection to the INA led to Clement Attlee realizing that India cannot be held and he decided to call it a day.

To the credit of the English, they ruled for 190 years and made India their home. They loved the place and their rule was benign as they ruled but also developed India. Credit must go to the English to have taken India from medieval age to a stable and modern age. Their contribution is unsurpassable from Railways, Roads, Bridges, Factories, Abolition of Sati, social reform, education and courts that made India stand up.

The one thing the British gave India was nationhood and Indians began to think of India as one. I am indebted to Captain Krishna Nair and my father who served in what is Pakistan now for how life was at that time.

Painting of 1889 market place by Edwin Lord Weeks
Painting of 1889 market place by Edwin Lord Weeks

Life in India before 1947

India was one nation then and it was possible to catch a direct train from Bombay to Peshawar. Lahore was the capital of Punjab and the entire Pakistan was dotted with Hindu temples and Sikh gurudwaras. The Sikhs, in particular, had all their most revered shrines in that region and it was a cinch to travel from Jaipur or Patna to any of the Sikh shrines. The Hindus constituted 30% of the population and Karachi was dominated by Hindu Sindhi business men. Lahore then was the most cosmopolitan city and center of art and culture. It had been the capital of the Sikh empire and one can say that Ranjit Sinh was the forerunner of the present state.

Hindus andSikhs also lived among tribal communities in the remote North East which are today the hotbed of fundamentalism. It was peaceful and both communities lived together. My father who served in the Lahore cantonment at Walton was nostalgic of the tree-lined roads and the peaceful atmosphere. Punjab was then ruled by the National party, a combination of Sikhs and Muslim and by a special act Sikhs were allowed to eat their meat by slaughtering animals with a single blow called the Jataka. There was no rancor and both mosques and temples existed side by side.

The entire state of Punjab and Sind, as well as the Frontier and Balochistan, were together with India and the Indian National congress launched its demand of "Puran Swaraj" or complete independence from Lahore. Who would know then that Lahore would soon not be part of India?

Life was peaceful

After the 1857 mutiny the administration of India was taken over by the Crown and Queen Victoria became Malika-e Hindustan( empress of India) Both Hindus and Muslims accepted her as such and professed loyalty to the crown. This was the basis of governance and people lived side by side. One can't think of a communal riot during much of the period.

Hindus celebrated their festivals in remote Balochistan and Sind had a 30% Hindu population. A direct train also connected Hyderabad( Sind) with Jodhpur in Rajasthan. It was a unified country till the British alarmed by unity sowed the seeds of communalism by creating separate electorates. The only reason for this was to perpetuate British rule. But alas they were not to know that soon they would be booted out of the sub-Continent.

Life in India was, to say the least good and had India remained united no power could have matched it. Yet, the fact is that now there is division in the sub-continent and maybe the future may have dark possibilities.


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    • emge profile image

      Madan 15 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      Yes, Lawrence, it's a terrible mess and add the Hindu-Muslim conflict and it is a witches brew.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 15 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      The Kurds used to say "If two fish are fighting in the sea, you can guarantee it's because of the British"

      This is a very nostalgic piece (and very good) but if I remember right, the reason the British were able to take over in the first place was the 'faction fighting' and tribal fights that were going on between the various groups in India even in the 18th Century!

      Britain could have worked harder to unite the country, but India wanted us 'gone' and the deal that was struck was that if India supported Britain in WW2 then Britain would grant independence. Basically, Britain gave up from that point on and went for the seemingly easiest option.

      Sadly, those 'easy options' have left us with an almighty mess and counties bordering each other with Nuclear weapons (and they hate each other!)